Obama Spins Vision of Decentralized Energy Revolution…for Tree Huggers, Tea Partiers, Everybody  

Aug. 25, 2015
President Barack Obama made clear this week how much he will champion the next phase in the American energy revolution — the drive toward local energy, a decentralized grid and consumer control.

President Barack Obama made clear this week how much he will champion the next phase in the American energy revolution — the drive toward local energy, a decentralized grid and consumer control.

For Obama to push green energy is not new. But at the National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada Monday he spun the vision of the next stage, one that is about more than just energy efficiency and renewables.

There is “a big shift underway that goes beyond simply putting solar panels on your home,” he said in the keynote address.

“Yes, the number of homes with rooftop solar panels has grown… But the revolution going on here is that people are beginning to realize they can take more control over the own energy, what they use, how much, when,” he said.

To help drive the decentralization, the Department of Energy “is announcing a new push to deploy innovative distributed energy resources like microgrids [and] rooftop solar with battery storage, and will offer loan guarantees for projects like these,” Obama said.

Obama also described plans to accelerate energy efficiency and solar by revising rules for financing so that more consumers can improve their homes with no money down.

“A lot of Americans want solar and to become more energy efficient, not because they are tree huggers…but because they are cost cutters. They like saving money,” he said.

Like telegraph to smart phone

He described the changes toward decentralization as profound and rapid, “like evolving from the telegraph to the smart phone in less than a decade.”

Six years ago smart meters were rare, but today 60 million consumers have access to detailed information about their energy use, he said.

Obama Delivers Key Note at National Clean Energy Summit

“We can use that information to change our habits, use energy a lot more efficiently, save more money without a whole lot of sacrifice,” he said. “We can control our thermostat from our smart phones. New appliances and smart devices can tell when energy prices are cheapest. We can do laundry or wash the dishes or charge our car at those times. We’ve got windows and building materials that can actually generate power.”

The president also took fossil fuel companies and utilities to task who are bucking the new trend, while praising companies that are changing their business models, such as San Antonio’s municipal utility, Southern Company and Oklahoma Gas & Electric.

He urged his opponents not to undercut funding that is helping the clean energy revoltion move forward.

“This is about the past versus the future,” he said. “To make that future a reality we’ve got to have everyone; utilities, entrepreneurs, workers, businesses, consumers, energy regulators, tree huggers, Tea Partiers. Everybody’s got to seize the opportunity before us. There is something big happening in America.”

New DOE Incentives

At the same time, the White House released a fact sheet on new incentives that the DOE will offer for clean energy, including a boost for low-income and multi-family housing initiatives. It also details public and private commitments to add solar on more than 40 military bases.

The incentives come on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency’s release of the Clean Power Plan, which is expected to accelerate use of energy efficiency and solar, should the rule withstand court challenges.

The DOE initiatives are created out of executive action, meaning they do not require Congressional approval. They include:

  • Making $1 billion in additional loan guarantee authority available and announcing new guidelines for distributed energy projects utilizing innovative technology and states looking to access this financing;
  • Unlocking residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for single-family housing to make is easier for Americans to invest in clean energy technologies;
  • Launching a new HUD and DOE program to provide homeowners with a simple way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes, by increasing homeowners borrowing power;
  • Creating a DOD Privatized Housing Solar Challenge, and announcing companies are committing to provide solar power to housing on over 40 military bases across the United States, while saving military families money on energy bills and making military communities more energy secure;
  • Announcing $24 million for 11 projects in seven states to develop innovative solar technologies that double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun;
  • Approving a transmission line that will support bringing online a 485-MW photovoltaic facility that will be constructed in Riverside County and produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes; and
  • Creating an Interagency Task Force to Promote a Clean Energy Future for All Americans; and announcing independent commitments from local governments, utilities, and businesses that are stepping up to drive energy efficiency in more than 300,000 low-income households and investing more than $220 million in energy saving activities for veterans and low-income customers to help decrease their energy bills.

More details on the plan are here.

Let us know what you think about Obama’s energy strategy on our LinkedIn group, Energy Efficiency Markets, or commenting below on EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of EnergyChangemakers.com. She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.